They arrive fresh and new and full of promise. New resources arrive on our doorstep begging to be cataloging through a number of routes. Some are identified by the catalogers themselves in their noble efforts to build a collection on a particular topic (for a workshop or some such). Others show up in passing as authors work to build the content of the site and reference external sites or resources in passing. More show up in submission queues as the result of someone in the outside world having filled in one of the many 'contribute a resource' forms that pepper our sites.
We start tracking them. After coming to our attention as 'potentially catalogable,' a given resource should become part of some sort of process that tracks the cataloging through to fruition. If a single cataloger is both identifying and cataloging a set of resources this may simply mean making an entry in a spreadsheet (or some such) where they can track the process for their own purposes. In many cases multiple folks will be involved in the cataloging and so it makes sense to enter the resource in one of the cataloging queues that allow multiple people to track the progress.
Cataloging ensues. Once we've got a tracking scheme in place then we can decide which cataloging tool is appropriate and jump in and do the initial cataloging work. This essentially boils down to describing the resources by following through a set of prescribed fields which may be free text or multiple choice (for controlled vocabularies). Next the record is 'handed off' (again hopefully we're tracking this with a cataloging queue or spreadsheet) to a different cataloger for quality assurance (QA). They check the record for accuracy and pass it back to the original cataloger who flips an appropriate switch to mark this particular record as done.
They get used. At this point the record can be incorporated into the appropriate websites. This may be a manual process of adding the resource to a list or directly to a page. Or it may be automated through a process that replaces existing hard-coded links to the relevant site with references through the catalog record. Or it may automatically show up in a search/browse interface by virtue of choices the cataloger made (usually a particular controlled vocabulary term they've chosen).
That's the quick overview. Next we'll see how to use catalog queues to get the ball rolling on a catalog record.